Thursday, November 5, 2015

What I've Learned About Acting in Salt Lake City, Part 2: The Theatre Scene

Welcome! This is Part 2 of a 3-part series! Part 1: Getting Serious, Part 2: The Theatre Scene, and Part 3: The Television & Film Scene

DISCLAIMER: I'm still fairly new here! My info is limited to my own experience. There are plenty of other actors out there who will have different advice and different insights. I am not any kind of resident expert--just sharing what I know.* So ask around--lots of other folks ARE resident experts. 

Here's the big pro: There are TONS of theaters out here! Mormons love the arts, and there are dozens of community theaters and a hearty handful of professional theaters.

Here's the big con: There may be tons of theaters out here, but everyone who works at them knows each other. It's one big incestuous theatre family. BYU has a huge musical theatre program and a huge acting program, and UVU's theatre department is INCREDIBLE. And the teachers from those programs also direct at several of the theaters. And most of the directors direct at multiple theatres. So it can be kinda tough to "break in" as a new face. (I seriously just got lucky with "Damn Yankees.") Persistence will be necessary.

And here's something that's either a pro or a con, depending on you: There's a BIG emphasis on musicals. There definitely is interesting, push-the-envelope, amazing theatre going on, but it's generally a little smaller, and doesn't always pay quite as well. So get comfy with musical theatre. (And you may be able to sing, and you may be able to dance, but the people at auditions with you have been doing both, with professional teachers, for 15-30 hours per week, for YEARS. So either get hella good, or get hella good at selling whatever you've got.)

So here's what I'd recommend:

1. Build your audition repertoire. Buy a binder and fill it with sheet music of songs you know, and make 16-32 bar cuttings of them. Bring it to auditions. Have a handful of monologues memorized or handy (30 seconds - 1 minute, both comedic and dramatic.) Practice often. Build variety. Know your strengths and play to them.

2. Get audition coaching. Starting with my "Oklahoma" audition, I've been going to Audition Advantage in Bountiful, and IT'S SO AWESOME. Erin, Jean (spelling? Sorry!), and Anne are all amazing. They can help you find a song, give you inside info about the production team and what they'll be looking for, coach you on the acting and singing, help you cut your music, help you pick an outfit, RECORD A REHEARSAL TRACK. I love it. No matter how good you are, it's always helpful to have fresh eyes. When I went there with my audition song for "Oklahoma," I was thinking I don't know what else these ladies can do for me. But Erin helped me break down the song and fill in the gaps, and I don't think I would have been called back without her guidance. It runs about $60/hour, but they'll also pro-rate that if you take less time. More info here.

Three frequently asked questions:

1. How do you format your resume?
For a long time, I approached that question like a graphic designer, and made GORGEOUS resumes. But in the acting world, straight-forward is actually best. Times New Roman, Helvetica, or similarly familiar font, no big graphics or flashy colors. You can see my current resume here. Print out a dozen copies, 8x10, ready to go so you don't have to worry about it on your next audition.

2. Should you join Equity? 
That's up to you. There are pros and cons, and it takes some research, but for most people, the answer is "no." Not unless you are living in New York and acting full-time. Because there just aren't enough Equity theatres in Salt Lake, and if you're Equity, you can't always work at non-Equity theatres. Joining a union always includes this dichotomy: You'll get less work, but it will probably be better paid work.

3. How do you find out about auditions? 
Most theaters will post their audition info online. You can also follow a handful of Facebook Pages to see audition notices (Audition Advantage is a big one, along with Theatre People of Utah Valley.)

Finally, here's a little info on some of the big theaters around here. (There are SO MANY theatres, you guys. I'm just listing the ones I've heard the most about or worked with personally.) Each of them hold regular auditions...the best thing is to keep checking back on their websites (some also have an email list that will notify you of upcoming auditions). If you're OCD like me, you can even make an organized list of these auditions.

Pioneer Theatre
Salt Lake City
Professional LORT venue. They hold auditions in New York and Salt Lake. They rehearse during the day for 2-3 weeks and shows run for about 4 weeks. Paid (equity rates). Audition info here.

Hale Centre Theatre
West Valley (close to Salt Lake)
Hub of musical theatre and comedies! (Think family-style theatre.) Very professional--take good care of their cast and crew. Shows are almost always double-cast. Rehearse for 6-8 weeks in the evenings, shows run 4-8 weeks. Paid ($15 per rehearsal, $25-$65 per show). Audition info here.

Hale Center Theatre Orem
Orem (close to Provo)
The smaller, more intimate cousin of the Hale in West Valley. Same details as above, but pay is a little lower ($15-35 per show). Audition info here (click on the side link that says "Auditions).

Egyptian Theatre
Park City (about 40 minutes east of Salt Lake)
Serves as both a venue for concerts, stand up, recitals, and films, and occasionally produces shows. Rehearsals and run times vary. Occasionally paid. Audition info here.

Grassroots Shakespeare Company
Orem (close to Provo)
Founded and run by a few college-aged enthusiasts, they take an awesome sort of "punk" approach to Shakespeare. Or an "Elizabethean" approach, depending on how you look at it. Just like in Shakespearean times, actors rehearse very little, bring their own costumes and props, and perform in an outdoor space. A few of their past productions include a production of "Titus Andronicus" with a "splatter zone" audience area, and a production of "The Little Mermaid," told through verses of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. Minimal rehearsal, shows run 3-6 weeks, with occasional exceptions. Also produces 3 plays as part of its touring company. Unpaid. Audition info here.

Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC)
Salt Lake City
Home of some of Utah's "edgier" theatre. They do everything from musicals to comedies to dramas, as well as develop new plays. They also do a yearly show called "Saturday's Voyeur" (har har), which is an irreverent satire of current events, focusing on local culture. Rehearsals vary. Shows run 4-6 weeks. Often paid, but rates vary, and sometimes unpaid. Audition info here.

Utah Repertory Theatre
Salt Lake City
A tamer cousin of SLAC. They also produce musicals and straight plays. They provide detailed content advisories for their shows, but will still do theatre that wouldn't work at places like the Hales. Rehearsal schedules vary, but generally evenings for about 6 weeks. Shows run 2-3 weeks. Occasionally paid (rates vary, usually not more than a few hundred dollars). Audition info here.

Centerpoint Legacy Theatre
Centerville (about 30 minutes north of Salt Lake City)
Big fancy theatre that does lots of professional shows. Their season usually features similar fare to the Hales (family-oriented musicals and comedies). Rehearses in the evenings for 6-8 weeks, shows run 4-6 weeks. Unpaid. Audition info here.

Orem (close to Provo)
This venue is both a movie theatre and a live theatre. They have both an indoor space and an outdoor space. They have a big focus on education, so they do a lot of theatre for young audiences. Generally rehearses in the evenings. Shows run 2-6 weeks. Unpaid. Audition info here.

Utah Shakespeare Festival
Cedar City (about 3 1/2 hours south of Salt Lake City)
Summer-stock theatre, repertory style. Auditions are held in late summer/early fall for the next year's season. Full-time summer work. Paid. Audition info here.

The Grand Theatre
Salt Lake City
Focuses on musicals. Rehearsals run evenings, about 6 weeks. Shows run 3-4 weeks. Paid. Audition info here.

Desert Star Playhouse
Murray (10 minutes south of Salt Lake City)
Dinner theatre that does locally-focused parodies of well-known works (stuff with titles like "Star Wards" and "Murder on the Frontrunner Express"). Open auditions are held seasonally. Shows are usually double-cast and run for about 3 months. Paid. Audition info here.

PYGmalion Theatre Company
Salt Lake City
Theatre focused on women and women's stories! They put a big focus on original works, but also do well-known plays as well. Shows are usually cast for the entire season during one audition process. Paid (around $1000). Audition info here.

The Echo Theatre
Small community theatre--actors usually assist with costuming, set construction, etc. A great place to work and create collaboratively. Rehearsals run in the evenings, usually about 6 weeks, and shows run 3-6 nights a week for about 2-4 weeks. Also runs short play festivals. Unpaid. Audition info here.


Have anything else you'd like to add? Give us your tips and insider info in the comments!

* Like, seriously. Part of me feels like I don't have any right to be giving others advice. But others helped me on my journey, so I want to pay that forward. 

1 comment:

  1. I've seen a couple of other events at other places, but this was my first time in here. It was amazing! Great party venues, it's smaller than those bigger places but it is still a fair sized venue. Food was great and I think it's recently renovated - it didn't seem old or anything.